Casino Level, Jupiters Casino, Broadbeach
My mum's birthday normally ties in with the Queen's birthday long weekend. This year, it was renamed as the Queen's Jubilee holiday (next year it will be gone altogether) and coincided with mum's 50th. I booked her and dad a 2 night stay at Pethers Rainforest Retreat in Mount Tamborine. They like bushwalking etc so I figured it'd be a nice spot to do all that and relax.
We arranged to have dinner one night with Mork's parents. I suggested Zen Restaurant at Jupiter's because I recall eating there once as a kid and really enjoying it. Plus, there's the benefit of being able to hit the roulette after ;).
I made a booking for 7:30 and we were there 15min early but apparently there weren't any tables ready so we had to wait... till a bit after 7:30pm. There was this other occasion when we were staying at the coast and tried to get into Zen without a booking. It was an absolute no go so I think that with Zen, bookings are essential.
The restaurant is beautifully furnished and quite busy without having that hectic, chatty buzz that most Chinese restaurants do. You may consider that to be a positive or negative.
Zen's menu contains popular Chinese dishes. We went for the Peking duck over 2 courses, plus a few accompanying dishes. Last year, I was going through a Peking duck craving phase and Mochi brought up Zen as an option. I didn't get to try it then but this was just the right occasion for it.
I also tried a peach cocktail. It was nice but not too different from the (much cheaper) frozen dacquiris available at the casino bar.
Peking duck being sliced
The first course of Peking duck was actually the first thing that came up. The duck was brought near our table (not right next to it because there was no room) and sliced 'live'. A few meagre portions of meat were extracted from the duck and with shallots and Peking sauce in pancakes. The pancakes were premade for us, rather than self-serve, which is what I'm used to.
Peking duck pancakes
The Peking duck pancakes were... ok. The flavor was fine but the skin wasn't crispy at all. I think crispy skin is critical so for me, this dish was a let down.
Dad had chosen a tofu dish too. It was... also ok. I mean, it tasted alright but it was too simple and well below expectations for what I'd expect from a proper restaurant. I've tasted better from much cheaper eateries.
Spicy pork and eggplant
My pick was a spicy eggplant dish. I love Asian-style eggplant and almost always order it if I see it on the menu. This one didn't impress me at all. The eggplant wasn't tender and mushy like it's supposed to be. The sauce was overly thick and had a strange flavor that wasn't balanced.
Salt and pepper fish
Our seafood dish was supposed to be fish fillets in corn and egg. What we got instead was deep-fried crispy salt and pepper fish. This was nice and crispy so it tasted good. I wouldn't say it was anything special, that's for sure.
Stir-fried dry duck noodles
The second course of Peking duck was also one of the reasons why we went for the 2-course option. It's tradtional for us to have noodles for a birthday celebration and there was the option to have a stir-fried duck noodle (either that or duck san choi bao). The noodles were crispy and there was a fair amount of duck meat but the sauce was underseasoned.
I was really disappointed with Zen. Pretty much none of the dishes really stood out and a couple were outright poor efforts. The dishes were on the pricy side too and not only did they taste average at best, they were small servings too. I'm surprised it's so popular and wouldn't go back or recommend anyone go here for Chinese food.